Diplomats gather for a peaceful Syria
05 June 2013, 18:08
Geneva - US, Russian and UN diplomats gathered in Geneva on
Wednesday to plan a new international conference aimed at ending the conflict
in Syria, as the regime scored a major victory by taking the strategic town of
Joining UN peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi at the
table were Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and US Under
Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman.
The meeting, aimed at paving the way for a new peace
conference, comes as France and Britain pointed to proof that President Bashar Assad's
regime had used the deadly nerve agent sarin.
A UN probe had also found "reasonable grounds"
to believe both sides had used chemical weapons.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia's Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed last month to push for the conference, which is
meant to follow up on an initial Geneva meeting last June that produced a
never-implemented power transition plan for Syria.
Washington and Moscow have pledged to work in tandem to
bring the Syrian regime and the opposition together for the first time, and try
to negotiate a political transition to end the war that has left about 94 000
The initial plan for the talks to be held early this
month - to build on the accord signed in Geneva last 30 June 30 - has now
slipped into July, amid wrangling over the exact guest list and agenda.
The regime has agreed in principle to participate, but
Syria's main opposition has refused to attend as long as fighters from Iran and
the Islamist-militia Hezbollah are fighting in Syria alongside Assad's forces.
It has also so far reportedly rejected names put forward
by the Syrian regime as possible interlocutors, while continuing to demand
A push for Iran
Last year's talks involved top diplomats from the five
permanent members of the UN Security Council - the United States, China,
Russia, France and Britain - and representatives of Turkey, the Arab League and
the European Union.
This time, Russia is pushing hard for Iran, another key
Assad ally, to have some kind of role, despite concerns from the West about
including the Islamic republic, which it accuses of shoring up the Syrian
On Wednesday, Syria's rebels conceded that they had lost
the battle for Qusayr, after the army claimed it had seized total control of it
and the surrounding region.
Control of Qusayr was vital for the rebels as it was
their principal transit point for weapons and fighters from neighbouring
It is also strategic for the regime because it is located
on the road linking Damascus with the coast, its rear base.